Czechoslovak pilots

Fighting with great distinction from the Battle of Britain, Malta, Italy through to D- Day and beyond. Based at Duxford squadrons 310 and 312 forming part of” Bader’s-big wing”!

Apart from the many who either lost their lives, limbs, or requiring plastic surgery, even more tragedy awaited the post war survivors. The pilots within a year or so of returning home, were given by the Communist authorities, a 20 years forced labour sentence. Many never survived…… “Some gratitude” for their sacrifices in fighting for the liberation of their native country!! Many of the pilots brought with them their British wives, who found themselves stuck behind “the iron curtain too”. Those who did survived were unable to find work other than cleaning public toilets, and the butt of music hall jokes! Initially they received a hero’s reception in Prague, but soon the Communists propaganda came into play, and they were all portrayed by the communists as spies. A tit- for- tat known for the McCarthy witch hunt in USA.

Two pilots are firmly etched in the annals of Czech military history: Josef František, and Karel Kuttelswascher.

Undoubtedly if František had survived the full term of the Battle of Britain he would have been the top scorer.

Josef František

Known as the “night hawk” he would attack German raiders mainly at the point of return to base in occupied France. Flying a long range Hawker Hurricane without any radar or instruments, he caused havoc amongst the Luftwaffe. Almost the same tally as John Cunnigham but without radar, and Cunningham had the advantage of the more advanced Beau fighter.

As part of our UK tour we have the opportunity to visit the “Shuttleworth Collection” where is housed an original Czech Spitfire which remains in good flying condition. The Spitfire has been exhibited at the collection for many years. Interestingly the management/curator, were never once tempted to alter the Czech markings/livery.

Karel Kuttelwascher